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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Category Archives: rosé

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosado

Spain (Rioja)

garnacho (60%), tempranillo (30%), viura

A ten-year old rosé and only released this year? This is not just any rosé. This is from a famed Rioja estate whose traditions go back 133 years. Fashions in winemaking come and go, but R. López de Heredia produces wine in time-honoured ways that include releasing a vintage only when sufficiently aged.

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva 2000

The colour is magic. Coppery peach and glowing. After ten years in the bottle it needs time to unfold. Even at that it is subtle, airy clean, surprisingly fresh. The aromas of fruit ripening in open air markets. On the palate dry and complex, elusive, perfect for some reflective moments before peppery chorizo. It’s far from the flirty rosés of summer. Rather a rosado for all seasons.  $$

Tonight is the anniversary of the night in 1605 when Guy Fawkes attempted to burn down the English Parliament. Still commemorated in Newfoundland where I live, in what was once Britain’s oldest colony. Here we call it Bonfire Night, and the flames of countless bonfires dance into the black night skies, especially in rural parts of the island. In the city it is not the same. For me, a wine with a certain fire in its soul presents a worthy substitute.

The amazing Viña Tondonia is the bodega’s best known vineyard. Its 100 hectares of clay and limestone are set in a shell-like pocket of land almost circled by a bend in the river Ebro, and from them come the premier wines of the estate. The reds are the best known, but the whites and this rosé are also distinctive and highly prized. They go back to the time of founder Don Rafael López de Heredia Landeta.

Little has changed in subsequent years. Paramount importance given to the quality of the fruit. Meticulous attention to the vines. Manual harvesting. Only indigenous yeasts. Fermentation in large, oak tanks, some dating back to the founding of the bodega! Racking into barrels (again  of American oak) to begin long maturation (up to ten years in the case of gran reserva). No filtering. Additional aging in the bottle prior to release of the wine to market.

It is the only Rioja winery to still include a cooperage. New barrels are hand-crafted, older tanks and barrels reconstituted. Both have always been treated with utmost respect. They are never scrubbed out after a wine is removed, for it is the build-up of tartrate crystals that help give these wines their character.

In the lead today is María José López de Heredia, fourth generation of the family, partnered with her sister Mercedes and her brother Julio César.

After all these years it is still very much a family affair. Despite the futuristic new tasting room (which, it should be noted, houses a carved oak and mahogany display stand from 1910) the wines continue to be made as they were at the time of their great-grandfather. After a period when many Rioja estates steered away from their roots, in an attempt to gain more international acceptance (i.e. more international wine critic points), several are seeing the folly of their ways, and coming to once again appreciate the approach by which Rioja wines were established. The wines of R. López de Heredia are among the region’s gold standards.



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Château de Pibarnon Rosé

France (Provence)

mourvèdre, cinsault

A perfect wine for Mother’s Day. Rosé in lieu of roses? We spend the first several minutes trying to describe the colour of this wine. Peach? Copper? Metallic orange-pink? A summer sunset? An exotic melon? The colour is extraordinary and alone seems worth the price of the bottle.

The day is all about colour, perhaps because outside the weather is rather dull. Projecting into the North Atlantic as it does, Newfoundland is not noted for its spring. The season arrives in fits and starts, one day reasonable, the next reverting to near winter temperatures. In wine-drinking at least I can force the season a little, bring on a summer wine, set it indoors against a stalk of mauve daphne and tulips eager to reveal their colour-saturated centres.













Or next to a bowl of our older son’s delectable lobster chowder, which he has laboured over for several hours. Even the burnt-sugar shine on the ‘cannelé’ (a pastry  from the south-west region of France that we attempted with surprisingly good success) seems to add to the colourful meal.

But what is the tint of that rosé?

Château de Pibarnon Rosé 2007

Perhaps transparent onion skin where it turns colour between the outside and inside layers… Let’s just drink the wine. It is crisp, layered with a very pleasing fruit acidity. The melon/grapefruit detected in the nose follows through on the palate. It is all light and fresh, and dry. An entirely pleasant, stylish wine. A smashing wine to be holding if dressed in summer white! Just perfect for that hot day in May. (Dream on.)  $

The Provençal estate of Château de Pibarnon sits on the wooded slopes of what is known as ‘la colline du Télégraphe,’ a hill so named because it was once the location of a station of the Toulon-Paris optical telegraph system. To the south is the city of Bandol and the coastal waters of the Mediterranean. There was little to be exited over until the property was purchased in 1977 by Comte Henri de St-Victor and his wife. They restored the house, a 13th-century bastide, to its former glory, and greatly increased the vineyard holdings. An amphitheatre of terraced vines – the Théatre d’Epidaure – sweeps down the limestone soils of the hill. Both in visual impact and in the quality of its wines, the estate is one of the most noteworthy in Provence, a treasure now passed down the family line to son Eric. (The man holding the grapes, so to speak.)

The signature wine is its much-praised red Bandol, 90%+ mouvèdre and avoiding new oak (bravo). But the rosé is also outstanding in its class. It is produced from young vines and by the saignée method. In the early stages of red wine fermentation, usually the second or third day after the grapes have been crushed, juice is bled off and allowed to ferment separately, the skins having been discarded. What gives the rosé of Château de Pibarnon its special characteristics?  In a word — terroir. No surprise there.

A final note — unlike most rosés, Château de Pibarnon ages well. Apparently I could have easily kept it for another year, on the off chance that next Mother’s Day it could be drunk in blazing sunshine.

Oh, well. Too late.



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